The rock’n’roll panto is the oblique strategies of theatre: an apparently random bunch of set pieces that are somehow strung together into a narrative that probably makes sense to someone, somewhere. Frogs, a merman called Herman, a massive owl in the Wild West, the bottom of a pond, a forest in… Knotty Ash. It’s all there – and so is much more – in Robin Hood, the latest panto-with-songs at the Liverpool Everyman.
Pantomimes don’t tend to change much – it’s the familiarity of these annual Christmas shows that is their greatest strength. And when Adam Keast arrives on stage – as locally treasured as Attenborough is nationally – it feels like the first strike of a Christmas bell. His partnership with Matthew Quinn – delivering money with menaces – always perks everyone up a bit. What a lovely pair.
It might be the rock’n’roll panto but it’s surely the laughs that keep everyone coming back. As ever it’s the unscripted moments that are the most treasured: a look to the audience, a gesture or an obvious attempt to elicit a laugh from a cast member. It’s like the audience is allowed into a big, glorious, rather naughty joke. The audience participation victim this time is the actor Kevin Harvey – an Everyman alumnus recently spotted in Jimmy McGovern’s tough prison drama Time. The panto shows no mercy to reputation.
Watching the cast switch roles and instruments throughout is a lesson in the professionalism on display. It’s a forum that allows them to show off their many talents; a revue where everyone lets their hair down and gives it everything they have in an effort to send everyone home with smiles on their faces. Over almost two months, that’s some feat.
Stephanie Hockley is every inch the Disney princess, despite having to put up with some decidedly unDisney behaviour. At the other end of the spectrum is Jessica Dives, belting out the numbers and eliciting enthusiastic boos as the villainous Darthia Defoe. A mention too for James Wolstenholme, who steps in to double, triple, quadruple up (and more) in a variety of roles, threatening to walk off with several scenes in absurd vignettes.
What happens? Everything, anything. Song, dance, fighting, snogging, farting, water pistols… Best not to try and make sense of it: Instead let it wash over you, like a warm duvet (albeit with occasional dousing of cold water) of colour, song and titters. Don’t resist – you’ll only hurt yourself.
Until 15 January